Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Not a fan.

While browsing startups started-up by women (a totally legitimate work activity), I got sucked into the hot-pink black hole of PopSugar. Not that I'm into celebrity stalking, but I allow myself rare schadenfreude when I see the rich and famous looking lousy. I don't really know who Mischa Barton is, nor can I wear current high-waisted trends myself, but there's no excuse for this drab, lumpy, thigh-accentuating, stringy-hair look. Eesch.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sadly, no one wore a Christmas sweater.

I was lucky to leave work early, and saw Brian, just leaving for work, when I stopped at home on my way downtown. Seeing him for a few minutes was better than nothing. Then I was only home long enough to make the bad decision of changing into more attractive, less comfortable shoes before running to catch the bus.

Downtown was still teeming, the festive consumerism of Black Friday turned to the last desperate pre-Xmas push -- fewer Sales Associates, longer lines, more wearied faces. Fortunately, I only needed a couple specific things: hip little zebra-stripe arm warmers for Caitie and an apron for her cooking-enthusist roommate who'll spend Christmas with us. Unfortunately, the heels started to hurt a few feet from the front door.

I'd also forgotten this week's tunnel-closure bus trouble, and waited half an hour for a 70-something bus to take me to dinner at Pomodoro with friends. To add to the excitement, some teenager was singing along to his iPod R&B next to me. At the peak of my frustration, Andrea called from a bus stop a few blocks away. While strategizing (it was now dinner-reservation time and we were still far from the table), I spotted a 71.

Pomodoro was noisey but nicely lit, and a bottle of wine already on the table. They neglected to tell us until Andrea asked about our food (an hour after we ordered) that they were short a chef. Nonetheless, everything was delicious. Paella was maybe a bit too much shellfish for me, but I would've regretted not trying. Portions and presentation were inconsistant -- Austin and Sarah's gorgonzola chicken was an outdated abstraction with bite-sized balls of mashed potato lined neatly next to a strip of chicken and then a slice of squash topped with two asparagus and a zigzag of some sauce. Lysondra had a huge pile of linguini, and Kirsten and Andrea had easily half as much tortellini -- the latter very upset they'd charged a dollar to replace her shrimp with mushy squash. At some point there was a heated argument over whether pomodoro meant apple of the earth, resolved via iPhone.

A bar seemed appropriate, but not everyone had ID, so someone (not me) invited everyone to my place for Rock Band. I hurried to clean, Buster stole the spotlight, and we played till shortly after Brian came home. It's great when guests stay exactly till you're tired of them. (Once I sctually fell asleep on the couch while Sarah and Erin watched seemingly-endless episodes of Seinfeld.)


Today at 2:30 we venture into the holiday family marathon. An afternoon in Issaquah with Brian's people -- he warned there may be singing, and from the very-surprising mention of a keg in the invitation, I imagine it's inevitable. Then Sunday a trip to grandparents' on Vashon, from where I'll go straight to Darrington — a day sooner than planned, meaning instead of a long weekend I get a three days with mom and Tony, most of them confined to a log house in the snowy almost-mountains. It's only picturesque from a distance. Inside, I predict What-Not-To-Wear marathons, loads of knitting, and explaining again what my job is and that it is actually a paid position to my step-dad. But there will be at least one Christmas sweater.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Feet firmly planted in winter, thanks.

I stopped by the Banana Republic site today, browsing for fancy dresses for a possible fancy New Year's Eve party at Melissa's (fancy), and was distraught to see Spring clothes already on preview.

Spring fashion week coverage may perk up a couple dreary Autumn afternoons, but I do not want to shop for floral print picnic-y dresses while it's pouring. Beyond being unable to plan what I want to wear six months from now, it's confusing to consider espadrilles and New Years dresses in the same shopping trip.

And so I went to the still-festive Anthropologie. Of course, this plum dress I love is on sale because it's autumny but has probably been around since August -- while me reason still balks at spring clothes pre-Christmas, my consumerism hopes they put it out now so it's all on sale by the time I'm interested.

4 1/2 minutes over and over

What does The Killer's Bones remind me of? Muse? Remy Zero? That one band that had the song about dancing? It sounds so familiar, and even though I've mostly given up on anything non-Christmas and non-jazz outside the gym, I can't stop listening to it. Can't stop. I think it will take over my day. (Video I'm not so sure of ... wacky skeletons kind of kill the mood.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Longest day ever at work yesterday, with very little excitement and only one very short appointment. The highlight was a thrilling walk to the IMA to sign up for a 7 am cycling class
(apparently "Spinning" is a registered name under some company). As fun as aerobics was, I'm afraid a second round might burn me out. And I'll do pretty much anything to avoid the smelly men. I'm hoping that if there are any in cycling, I can strategically place myself across the room, and the stationary bike will keep my from dancing through their cloud of stench.

Then bowling with work people, complete with weak drinks and two more babies than I usually see Friday nights (usual is zero). Not entirely convinced I want to spend years force-feeding a toddler salmon bites while s/he smears yogurt in her/his hair, but I feel increasingly less appalled at the idea.

We left for more drinks, homemade (out of a tub) hot buttered rum, chex mix, cookies. Fewer babies, more talk about sex. Don't remember the profound statements -- it was all a little muddled last night and certainly more in memory, but the same basic generalizing arguments about gender, power, and lust. I must say, I'm more apt to believe women don't so much become more emotionally involved after sex, but that they feel obligated to justify giving it up by making themselves emotionally involved with the guy. Not that prior emotions might not become amplified sometimes, but I'd be happier with women's culture if it allowed us the option of not loving everyone we make out with.

Off to SAM, then hopefully lovely dinner somewhere. I'm feeling scallop-y.

Monday, December 10, 2007

So I went for my first facial Saturday morning - very lovely and awkward at the same time, wearing a towel in a little room while a woman about my age examined my skin. I can't really say what it entailed, it was all very dark and quiet and I had my eyes closed/covered with daqmp sheets of something. But lots of scrubing and many warm towels later, I looked a bit shiny but quite fresh. Went downtown sans makeup -- just stopped in Macy's to put of mascara. I don't care how great your skin is, no one looks good without eyelashes.

I read Faking Good Breeding's commentaries on how power structures play out in salons, and while I've felt the same uneasiness paying someone to trim my toenails, I've equally felt uncomfortable with the idea of not patronizing a salon out of white guilt/pity/personal insecurities with my place in society. I don't think denying a salon my business shows any particular respect for the skilled people who work there -- it just denies that I'm part of the power structure within which the salon exists.

I think I further questioned my exact role in this hegemony the first time I had a pedicure from a white girl about my age who'd been to college. There was nothing particularly different about our backgrounds or our current life situations, I imagine we made roughly the same amount of money. So what was the power structure? Was it any more worrisome than when students come in to get information from me as an adviser?

I do wonder if part of the motivation for women to pay for expensive salons is that these places generally feature mostly young, white, attractive, non-immigrant staff -- we avoid most racial and political elements, the power structure is less apparent. Essentially, by paying $50 for a mani/pedi instead of $30, we get to deny we;re part of the hegemony without denying ourselves luxury.

I also noticed that during the facial and whenever I get my hair done, I think maybe I could be doing the job, think I'd probably enjoy it. I've never wondered this at a cheap nail salon with a language barrier between me and my pedicurist.


Sunday we had 13 (!) people over for fancy Rock Band and fondu party. The music was loud and everyone played, the rum balls were popular, and although the fondue was too high-maintenance people seemed to enjoy -- and I didn't really have to cook, just enlist cheese shredders. We managed to not annoy the neighbors or light the dining room table on fire with the fondue pot's chemical-gel fire pot thing. Success!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Had the best very long day with many friends. yesterday. Noonish, I went to the expensive knitting store with Melissa and we picked out a hat pattern to start together. I chose a very pretty warm grey yarn, spending $40 on teeny needles and everything else for this one little project. Knitting threatens to be an expensive hobby ...

But later, it felt totally worth it to step out of the apartment in my own handmade scarf, into a light flurry of the Seattle's first snow. A few degrees warmer, and I'd have been soggy and disgruntled at the bus stop, but the snow made waiting on a chilly wet streetcorner totally lovely.

Downtown, all Christmas-lit, I spent three hours wandering around deserted SAM galleries. I know nothing about the current Special Exhibition, so I was entirely useless to the few people who actually had questions. Fortunately, I put in my notice and will have Saturdays back in January. Right at five, I grabbed my things from coat check and went to Nordstrom to look for shoes while Sara and Lysondra escaped snowy Issaquah and picked up Erin and Andrea. (No luck anywhere, I'm seriously afraid black, pointy-toed flats are gone forever.)

We ate quickly, then saw The Cook at the Seattle Rep -- made me wonder why Brian and I have been going to ACT. It was wonderful, complex and interesting and very human. It didn't have an obvious agenda or fall into predictable emotions. The acting was great. Also, two great intermission drinks: a peppermint schnapps and Bailey's coffee, and something with rum and mint. Andrea was very excited about martini glasses (will remember to reserve her one for our party next weekend). The woman next to Lysondra was wearing a traditional Indian tablecloth as a skirt. And, as seems to happen everytime I'm in an audience with Sarah, some woman behind us was vocalizing every emotion, especially at inappropriate moments.

Then to Bricco on Queen Anne for wine, a fantastic salad (I never realized some walnuts are far superior to others), and excellent fancy cheeses. Lysondra had orzo-stuffed tomatoes that I want to go back for right now. It was very nice, not too pricey for the quality, nice staff and good ambiance. Very small, though, so I think late is probably a good option.

Then Starbucks at U Village, for tea and coffee and very detailed discussion of American Girl dolls, The Babysitters Club, and other elementary school-era culture. Sarah confirmed my most eager 9-year-old wishes by saying I was "very Mary Anne." And, apparently, while I grew up thinking I was missing countless opportunities for important fun, I actually had pretty much everything other girls my age did -- an addiction to cliched novels and the best American Girl doll, Samantha Parkington. Looking over this girl's outfits now, I can't believe I thought she was a boring one -- she has a plaid cape and white fur accessories! Fabulous!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I felt compelled yesterday, as if a hundred tiny voices were crying, "shop! shop! shop!"

When I walked through Westlake, maybe 15 live voices were calling out the same message, facetiously, bouncing around in a teeny mob of signs: "Buy more stuff now!!" "Shop!!" Predictably, the Buy Nothing Day self-righteousness parade had no effect on passers-by. They stuffed the streets, loaded with shopping bags and -- judging from the lines at Starbucks -- thoroughly caffinated.

I used to be a closet shopper, hiding lunch-break shopping bags in the trunk of my car, pretending I was above common consumerism by buying obscure, cheap brands rather than recognizable labels. But since I was never actually very good at keeping my habit hidden, and since I've shed the too-coolness of pretending to be a hipster or an artist or whatever, I've come to terms with my total enthusiasm for shopping. I love the people, I love the smells of the stores, I love trying on clothes and holding glittery earrings up to myself in a mirror.

And I felt Black Friday could only possibly be pleasant for shopping enthusiasts like myself. The crowds, the lines, the overblown advertising. But I worked my way through Nordstrom Rack with more ease than normal -- no wait at the ladies fitting room (it's not all about Christmas presents), and the normally-long register line moved much more quickly than normal. Same with Starbucks, where my soy latte order was prepared before I'd even paid, and cookies were prepackaged for easy handing-out.

And thus, in less than four hours, I was on my way home with presents for everyone on my little list (plus a couple on the way from Amazon). Back when I avoided the blatant materialism of Black Friday, I Christmas shopped throughout December. This drawn-out process left me stressed for nearly a month, and the longer it took more time I had to worry about getting just the perfect presents, not spending too much, not forgetting anything or anyone. But my presents were iffy, I bought too many little unnecessary things, and spent too much. I'm sure a bigger budget and greater maturity helps me now, but the mini-marathon of doing it most in one day helps too: I avoid overbuying, ideas for one person help me think of things for other people, I can keep money in check but limiting the stores I visit.

The only drawback was a bulky armful of heavy gifts to drag around -- along with the latte, it was impossible to eat my cookie. Loaded with shopping bags and thoroughly caffinated but hungry, it was time to go home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Post-pumpkin pie tonight, something provoked Brian's mom and me to talk briefly about women's feeling of vulnerability walking alone at night. She said she never worried walking across UW campus when she was in school (I'm guessing in the 70s?), but she feel uncomfortable now in well-lit downtown at night, worries about her adult daughter, nodded understandingly when I said I call my mom when I walk home after dark. I never worried when I was first in college either, but now jsut the darkness frightens me -- whether it's 11 pm or 6:30.

She also nodded when I said this struck me as a big gender difference -- I'd mentioned being home alone at night to Brian, but men don't understand this fear. Girls are raised to avoid every dark street, to travel in packs, to walk quickly and confidantly past strangers so as not to appear vulnerable -- but after years of these warnings, we can't help but feel vulnerable no matter how confidantly we walk, because we know our very identity makes us a target.

I would say it's unreasonable (and proably disempowering) to put fear in the hearts of half our population based just on gender, but I remember as a middle-schooler tallying my friends whose female vulnerability had been taken advantage of, and it was a significant percentage. Maybe I had unucky friends and family, or it was our neighborhood. But as Brian's mom said tonight, it's not just in the city, it's in small towns and everywhere. So maybe as a kid my friends were just willing to out themselves as victims.

I think this fear of some vague "it" that's everywhere is a primary part of my hesitance to have kids. To have a girl would mean raising another person to walk home in fear, and personally perpetuating the image of women as weak by frightening my daughter with terrifying images of her inherent vulnerablity rather than letting her be naive and even more vulnerable. It would mean worrying about her my entire life, no matter how old or strong or successful she became, worrying ten times harder than I've ever worried about myself. But to have a boy would mean being responsible for the other half of this fear dynamic, at the least knowing that no matter how well he turned out, women would fear him if they passed on a dark street. And that he'd probably never notice.

Obviously there's a lot more to life than this particular fear. But it's an intense feeling I can't ever remember not having (or, at my most naive, not knowing I should be feeling even while I walked across campus after midnight).

And then I wonder, without this fear, without the pressure of juggling kids and work and hair appointments and home-making, without an overwhelming culture of body image issues, what do men ever worry out about? Balding? No wonder they control the world.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I slept through aerobics this morning, but went to Northgate for new workout shoes and pants this afternoon. Very excited to peek through this giant DSW shoe store, but everything was not very thrilling.

30 minutes later at the slightly scummy-feeling Shoe Pavilion, I realized I'd probably never be thrilled by an athletic shoe. But my current bright green Pumas have lost their cushiness, (and when did bright green seem like the best color for my feet?), so I bought a pair of pink and white Asics. More cushy and much more pretty.

Then to Target to complete the ensemble: more workout pants = less frequent need for laundry. Surprisingly attractive for being too comfortable for public. Plus! Wrapping paper. I've only bought two presents and neither have arrived from Amazon, but if you wait too long you get stuck with the ugly snowcreatures and creepy Santas on your gifts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I ran out of hairspray this morning. Definitely unfortunate for the moment, but it meant a reason to visit Aveda -- always an exciting errand, with the tea and the occasional hand massage, and staff that tells you your hair looks wonderful (and nod knowingly when you tell them it's done at an Aveda salon). Even more exciting when you have an envelope of free birthday offers to redeem.

So I grabbed my Air Spray, sipped my tiny cup of tea, and perused the smoothing products. (Do I need my hair smoother? Maybe I need it less smooth?) When the SA asked, "Are you earning points with us?" in a very "are you in the supersecret fancy girls' club?" voice, I handed her my birthdaytime papers. She was easily twice as excited as me, and trotted me over to a little kiosk of brown laboratoryesque bottles.

I sat. She sales-pitched. I closed my eyes. She waved 12 bottles of scent under my nose, one by one. I approved the woodsy, sweet, floral, and minty, rejected the strangely buttery ones, and something that conjured a mental image of a dirty bearskin rug. She cycled through the favorites again. I ranked them. Finally, when my nose was on the verge of giving in, I'd narrowed it down to one -- after so much sniffing, I had no idea which was the lucky winner, and I didn't think it was anything I'd normally pick off a shelf. My new friend dripped the chosen oil into a bottle of some other Aveda mystery liquid, then handed the fragrance over for free (along with my far-from-free hairspray).

Beauty blogs peaked my interest in scents a few months ago. I sniffed my way through Macy's and Sephora, but I had trouble finding anything I had to have on my skin. J'adore Dior is lovely with no staying power or real excitement, Shalimar was highly recommended but I think I'm over it's exotic appeal for now. (A Macy's SA tried to sell me on some other Guerlain, and I spent an entire afternoon downtown hoping the nauseating drydown scent wouldn't stick to my coat.) Contrary to every review I've read, I actually like SJP's Covet -- but it's a little too delicious, to chocolately edible, to wear around all the time.

As I suspected, this mystery Aveda fragrance was very different from anything else I own or have tried. Initially, it smells decidedly Aveda -- not like a particular shampoo or lotion, but like the stores and salons themselves. Bottling the indulgent sense of going to the salon is pretty appealing. Then, it's not perfumey, not flowery or fruity, not manufactured. It smells like it belongs on skin, like it came from something warm and organic.

And, though I was hesitant, and have no idea whether this particular scent is best for me, I'm happy I picked it from one of many clinical-looking brown bottles -- rather than a line of sparkley designer names at Sephora. My eyes-closed process-of-elimination selection felt random at the time, but it's not hardly as arbitrary as buying a scent because I like the handbags from the same designer.

Friday, November 16, 2007

So I'm trying to find a movie to see tonight, and I'm lost in a maze of horrible cinema. The two films I was interested in, Elizabeth and Love in the Time of Cholera, have both been poorly received. Other gems now playing include these enticing details: classic literature adapted liberally to include a made-up character for Angelina Jolie to wear spandex as; Justin Timberlake (who can't act enough to fake an entertaining interview) as a bible-quoting war veteran; a documentary about corn; and the deliciously emo-sounding Wristcutters: A Love Story.

So I thought maybe we could rent some recent release, and Blockbuster recomends "Ice Spiders: The cast of the hit primetime drama Melrose Place reunite for his Sci-Fi Channel original film concerning a remote ski lodge that is overrun by enormous mutant spiders."

So much money and freedom of speech, and so many beautiful people, in this country, and we can't come up with one decent movie for a Friday night?

On the plus side, I think there will be Indian food.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

a few of many New York photos

World Trade Center site and shiny replacement tower.


Statue of Liberty, surprisingly small from the Staten Island ferry.

Central Park bear.

Brian insisted we spend an afternoon in H&M :)

Fancy pants public library.

Mimosas for weekday brunch in Bedford.

$5 Improv at Upright Citizen's Brigade theater.

Monet's waterlillies get their own audience at MoMA. Starry Night wasn't even visible beyond the crowd. But amazing Picassos were unattended, and a room of Mondrian almost empty.

Freezing on top of the Empire State Building at night.

Markets in Chinatown.

Josh Ritter show. Two tickets: $40. Two drinks: $25.

Brooklyn's Life Cafe, sister bar to the Life from Rent -- equally good for breakfast and Long Islands.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New York Tourist Checklist

Central Park (some of it)
New York Marathon
Hip Brooklyn neighborhood (Bedford/Williamsburg)
Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island from a distance
WTC site
Time Square
Empire State building
Many subways
The Guggenheim
Rockefeller Plaza ice skating

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's 4:18 am at home, but in Brooklyn it's sunny and warmish. Our flight was smooth, our shuttle ride mostly harmless. There's a lot of garbage on the streets, a lot of pidgeons, and Kelsey and Graham's apartment is weird but inviting -- suspicious neighbors, lots of windows.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I am trapped in the longest night ever. Laundry pile upon laundry pile, Sex and the City upon Sex and the City. My bags are expertly packed -- a week's worth of miniaturely folded clothes in a carry-on roughly the size of my purse. I've have my FAA-regulation plastic baggie of mini moisturizers, etc, two alarms set, the fridge cleared of moldables, the iPod charged.

Usually I run through my few hours of night more quickly than imaginable, no time for ironing or toe-nail polishing. Now tonight I've nothing left but to go to sleep and wake up and go to New York, but I'm not sleepy and the night is not moving along quickly enough with me awake.

When will it end?!?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This is not a review

Walked through a cloud of pot smoke in Grieg garden and the awkward ranting of sign-raising protesters to north campus today, to see the art faculty show at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. It's a pretty little gallery, so a pretty little show, but a good variety of interesting work. Pretentious Title: This Is Not an Art Show, a reference to a seminal surrealist painting from 1928-29. Fortunately, if there was any surrealist work at the show, I didn't get the joke. I'm perfectly content with reality.

I went mostly to see something from Philip Govedare, who taught my favorite Art course and whose work I'd really love to emulate if I ever actually painted (and if I didn't feel overcome with guilt at the thought of mimicking an artist). The above work (pirated here from the interweb) is similar to the one on show.

Most of his work I've seen is a incredible amount of color used in a very controlled way, a fantastic balance between abstraction and representation; landscapes of sites that are "charged with the implications of use, development and ownership" strike me as socially, and maybe emotionally, relevant without any sense of self-righteousness or -indulgence. (Few artistic features turn me off more abruptly than overt emotion. I once saw some young capitol hill painter's painting of a distressed teenager in a bathtub with cutting marks on her arms. Give me a break. Painting something base is little more more evolved than doing it yourself. I respect your right to have issues, but I don't respect them as valid artistic subject.)

Other interesting paintings were a large abstract by Helen O'Toole and a small, very engaging portrait by Ann Gale. I never took their classes, and now I wish I'd both seen their work and had some female influence over my art degree. I don't exactly know if gender played any significant role in my experience as an art student, but in all those classes I only had 2 female instructors -- a really accessible, under-critical grad student, and one professor who I didn't care for. Fine with me that she was not represented at the show.

The "Jake" is free, open maybe 1-4 Tuesday-Friday.
Yesterday morning at the gym, the young woman next to me in the hair-drying/make-upping room opened her phone and started playing music, loudly. I didn't mind so much until -- through the cell-phone-is-not-a-stereo distortion -- I heard Janie's Got a Gun. "She had to take him down easy and put a bullet in his brain / She said 'cause nobody believes me. The man was such a sleeze." Not the lyrics I need to hear when I'm getting ready for my day.

I contemplated putting an understanding hand on her shoulder and asking if everything was OK, the kind of gesture people talk about post-school shooting, etc -- but I'm not really that kind of gym neighbor. The next song was something like R&B or smooth jazz -- it's impossible to tell genre through those little speakers -- so I'm sure she's perfectly sane, just has bad taste.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Redheaded brunette.

And just like that (two hours later), I'm a redhead.
I thought of something darker, more black, and my excellent Gary Manuel-bound stylist Dan thought of lighter browns, some caramel (which I like because it sounds like sugar). But when the initial lighteneing goo was rinsed, I looked at my fantastic red hair and decided this color was my destiny. Fortunately Dan had the same idea, because he kind of does whatever he wants -- hence the blonde splotch I'd been wearing for a month.

Much, much later, after a tray full of creams and formulas, including a disarmingly bright
orange (see the splotch next to the orange hair dryer), he removed the foils, rinsed and dried, and I was lighter and more red than ever. And I love it.

Strangely though, despite having red in my hair for the last 6 months or so, my identity still lingers under the four-year reign of bottle black. It's not so much that I picture myself with black hair anymore; when I look at old photos, the color seems flat, bland, not striking like I'd thought it then. But I feel like a black-haired girl with red hair temporarily.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Things about which I am very excited

As Editor in Chief of my high school newspaper, I wrote a column called Yay for Things. Welcome to the resurrection.

1: Betsey Johnson and her sparkly, spangly jewels and bags. Exhibit a: fantastic glittering heart-and-arrow earrings, dangling not quite so close to tasteless as some of her accessories -- but hinting as excess in her very Betsey way.

2: The exceptional music of Josh Ritter. I haven't really been excited by music in a long while. Maybe I was giddy from my above purchase, or wooed by the super sound quality of the earphones Brian bought me. Probably, though, the music is just really perfect.

If I was half as hip as I ever thought I was, I'd probably have heard of him many moons ago. But I'm fine having discovered him tonight, via my NPR podcast, like a semi-cool grandpa. He's got 5 albums, and played Seattle a few days ago. But! He's playing in the lower east side the night before we leave NY. So, yay for me.

He has this song called "The Temptation of Adam," lyrics about a couple in a nuclear missle silo. It's as beautiful and sweet and convincing as it sounds ridiculous. Another song has these lyrics: "it is not love / that makes the stars shine / but the spontaneous combuston of super heated super condensed gasses / in a process known as fusion / that creates new elements when the time is right / but since you're gone / the stars dont shine so bright."

3: I threw a dog biscuit across the room and Buster spent a frantic fifteen minutes desperately searching the apartment. What a crazy muppet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

For lazy bakers, no knead

Apparently I missed the revolution a year ago, when the NY Times published a NY bakery's top-secret recipe for no-knead bread. Raised as a bread lover on mom's home-made loaves, I've been dissapointed by my own few efforts: the heavy, soggy pain of an amature. So while the manual labor of kneading appeals to me, the idea of not kneading was even better -- one less variable for me to screw up.

You can find variations of Jim Lahey's original recipe all over: YouTube, blogs, and the May issue of Vogue (where I first found the bread in the ironically-exceptional food column of the fashion magazine -- I doubt carbs have much place in the preceeding pages).

As I type, my bread rests in its second-to-last state (before consumption, pray it turns out edible): swaddled in a bran-dusted dishtowel atop the stove, napping for two hours before entering a 500-degree oven in a shiny red le Cruset-esque enamel-clad iron casserole. Expect a full report if everything goes well. Expect a second attempt if not.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Darrington today. Left around 11:30, arrived around 1:30, with a slight delay for Starbucks.

The weather was nice and the visit was short. Caitie arrived just after Brian, Buster, and me.
Said hello to everyone, spent a little time inside talking to mom, looking at a box of cookbooks she was sending home with me, and the quilt she finished for us -- pinks and purples and blacks and creams, with lots of hearts and words quilted in. Across the bottom, she wrote, "Small quilts help keep you close."

My mom and stepdad have 10 acres, a log house built by a logger who was a pretty big name in the early days of the town. Flower and herb and vegetable gardens, a river a few minutes through the woods, wild bunnies and birds and porcipines, occasional bear. The driveway overlooks Whitehorse mountain.

Buster's rarely off-leash -- I like to hope apartment puppies don't know what they're missing. He didn't go outside until I led him to the back, to introduce him to the chickens. We found them retreating behind a tree, but Buster drove them out in a flurry of flapping wings and squalking -- I've never seen him run so fast. Like the crafty hyena on Planet Earth, he seperated one from the pack chased it across the lawn, where it brilliantly cornered itself behind a potted plant an a shovel. They had a bit of a stand off, until Buster was distracted and the chicken ran home.

Dinner, acorn squash from mom's garden, pie from Caitie's restaurant, then the drive back. With one more stop at Starbucks.

Pumpkin Cookies

Very soft and cakey, a good level of sweet and with some spiceyness from the nutmeg, cinnamon. I might add a bit more of the spices next time. Recipe asked for basic icing, but I sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar to give a little sparkle and texture.

36 cookies


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 cup canneb pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking power, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the looks, or the words that laid the foundation. I was in the middle before I knew I had begun."

I've been watching the BBC Pride & Prejudice for the last two days. Oh! It is so great. So. Great. So perfectly acted, every little eyebrow twitch and squint and sign from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle ... the poufy dresses and bonnets and estates and carriges. Watching it makes me want to read it (my cheap German paperback version, pages held with a photocopy of my passport), and reading it makes me want to watch it.

A few quotes I hope to work into conversation soon:
"You have no compassion for my poor nerves!"
"Tolerable I suppose, but ... not handsome enough to tempt me. I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young [ladies, puppies, students] who are slighted by other men."
"Shelves in the closet. Happy thought indeed."
"I remember running from Pemberly to Lampton as a boy almost every day in the Horse Chestnut season."

Not sure how I'll fit that last one in, but maybe in Darrington Sunday. They might celebrate Horse Chestnut season.

Also, what are they wearing under those empire-waisted nightgownish dresses that make their boobs looks so fantastic?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Yoga this morning. It's been a while, so I wanted to reacquaint myself with the basic idea before my autumn quarter IMA class starts next week.

I like these group classes that cater to women, because I always feel nicely in the middle of the demographic -- not the oldest or youngest, largest or smallest, most or least competent. We're all a little lumpy in spandex and ponytails, barefoot, disheveled. In a sea of black exercise pants, everyone is equal.

Except, of course, the instructors. I reserve a special jealous antipathy for these ladies of peak fitness, lean and friendly with perfect posture, impeccable balance, a wardrobe of suspiciously attractive gym clothes. I don't trust them -- and yet, I kind of want to be their best friend.

My last yoga experience was before I reached legal drinking age. The instructors were perfectionists, physically adjusting our limbs to correct angles, calling us out when we bent the wrong direction or our foreheads failed to reach the floor. There was no world music during class. The studio was cold and the lighting harsh. Yoga if the Soviets had reached India. I left each session limber but stressed -- not the meditative experience that I wanted, not really a workout either.

But today we sweat. The chill of the room burned off quickly with 40 bodies struggling through animal and warrior poses. We breathed heavily. Some seemed to give up, sour looks reflected in the mirrored walls. Some struggled along. Some, I'm sure though I didn't see, enjoyed their ability to master every posture immediately. I dropped to the mat for a pose with a title involving locusts, feeling more like a slug. A girl next to me smiled when I laughed at an overly-optimistic instruction that, "If you want to make this one a little more challenging, just [draw both feet up to your shoulder blades, pressing your spine firmly to your forehead, keep all weight on your fingertips, and exhale deeply.]"

Then we got to the napping part where we lie on the floor with our eyes closed, palms up, and focus on releasing all tension. I was not at all bothered when the instructor wandered by to move my head some few degrees that miraculously made breathing easier and the whole of life more pleasent and serene. I inhale deeply, and my toes relax. Hurricanes slow to gentle breezes, traffic glides smoothly through Everett and Tacoma, the divorce rate drops 3%, and the middle east takes a moment of silence. I exhale deeply.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Went to Phinney's Oliver Twist tonight with Sarah, Erin, and Sarah's friend Sarah.

Everything was fabulous -- creative mixed drinks, nice ambiance, a nice cowded mumble loud enough to feel social but not overwhelming, flatteringly dim lights, a Seattle-typical waitress who's minimal enthuisiasm was more conversation piece than annoyance, flavor combinations very Top Chef, predictable prices -- except the menu's awkward liminal state: not quite bar food, nor appetizers, nor dinner. Absolutely tasty. I wasn't hungry when I left. Was I satisfied? I'm not sure. How do four excellent dates stuffed with cheese and bacon in tomatey sauce really compage to a hefty burrito or bowl of green curry?

In conclusion: Americans don't do tapas. We want a steak and four pounds of mashed potatoes, so we can leave half our meal on the table. Wasteful indeed, but at least we leave stuffed instead of confused.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I finished my first scarf! Three months, three skeins of wool yarn, and one dropped stitch.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


We bought our tickets to New York yesterday! And when I say "bought" I really mean we used a few thousand of Brian's parents' 180,000 frequent flier miles. I won't pretend my excitement at saving $338 doesn't overshadow the awkward feeling of having taken so much generosity from the Alexanders -- but they still have 141,000+ miles, so I think they'll scrape by.

Kelsey says she has an air-mattress for us in her very pretty new apartment. Flying and staying for free means we'll be able to do many more exciting things there -- in a perfect world, I could drag Brian to The Phantom of the Opera again. If not, there's Les Miserable and Rent and all kinds of little shows. Plus H&M, which I may go into Sunday and emerge from Friday. The irony is, of course, that I've started thinking about what I want to wear in New York, which makes me think maybe I should buy a few new things before we go -- buy things here so I'll have nice things to wear shopping when we get there.

My life is so difficult.
Brian and I went to the South Lake Grill today, for fabulously-half-priced Sunday victuals. He was disappointed by the jalapeno "mac" (actually penne) & cheese -- I think he regretted foregoing the roast beef dip, which he said, "holds a special place in my heart."

Though oversauced in vat of something between tarter sauce and aioli (I forget what the menu called it), the crab cakes were decent, good if I really thought about the flavors, with excellent mashed potatoes and giant hunks of just-tender broccoli and carrot. This is pretty typical of the food overall -- everything on the menu is just what you expect, nothing really thrills. Thoroughly satisfying (though again overdressed) have been the salads, Ahi and chicken with field greens, the blackened fish wrap (maybe talapia?), and Brian's beloved dip.

The staff is always nice, the place is clean and well-decorated. Some sport is always on TV, but it doesn't feel like a bar -- the level of fancy is somewhere between Red Robin and Palomino: Jeans and a teeshirt are just fine, but I wouldn't be overdressed in a skirt.

But would still we stop by if it wasn't half-priced all day Sunday? Brian says, "Definitely not as much." And, the looking at the real (reasonable) prices on the menu and having got used to half-off, I'd feel like we were paying too much any other day of the week.

No secret Martha Stewart is pretty much my idol -- ambitious, entrepreneurial, stylish, healthy, assertive, a little sassy, and accepting of her own wrong-doings. I love that she built an empire on cakes and gardening and the best way to fold a tee-shirt. She defies the sad misconception that a woman must be domestic or professional, dominant or lovely -- basically, manages to maintain a super traditionally feminine identity without being limited by the weakness generally associated with such a persona.

So I was very excited to hear she could be my MySpace friend. She has a blog, photos from her modeling career and her New York farm, Edith Piaf's most-perfect La Vie En Rose playing in the background, and, of course, a wall full of flattering compliments. Not exactly a personal connection, but I still feel very delighted to be one of her lucky few (thousand) friends.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Escaping Halo 3 to the IMA last night, I knew the evening TV would be a little different than my usual gym accompaniement of the Today show. But I had no idea how weird TV had become. I always thought VH1 was the more mature music channel, a step above the Real World and TRL (though who doesn't miss those two months of middle school when we could've set our watched by the regularity of KC and JoJo at number one every afternoon?).

Last night, VH1 followed an hour of Britney's most bizarre year ever (how did I miss her frenzied, bald, umbrella- weilding car smashing incident?) with The Pick-Up Artist.

A motley crew of awkward-but-seemingly-nice-enough guys role-play picking up hotties per the pseudo academic guidance of the magician and "former" nerd extraordinaire Mystery. That is his name, and, apropos I suppose, he slinks around all ruffled and feathered in a costume of flouncy shirts, cowboy boots, large hats, tight pants, and goatee -- in essence, dolled-up like a pirate too flamboyant even for Disney's Caribbean. One of few men for whom wearing an eye patch or a paisley ascot would seem more reasonable than not.

He also speaks very creepily in a slow, calm voice with big words, medium-sized social theory, and diminutive intentions. Possibly the magician is hypnotizing his audience with his uber-controlled speach?

I don't know that any individual recommendation he gave was particularly degrading or sleazy. His advice on body language seemed valid, his statement that there are no good pick-up lines correct, and his directives on approaching women in a nonthreatening way was very studied. But therein is Issue #1: people have been seducing and charming each other for centuries, but for the most part it's done through a genuine connection or personal charisma, not through a con man's formulaic checklist of do's and don'ts.

Issue #2: It's a how-to show for men about picking up women. Not for people to picking-up other people, not for establishing a good relationship, or meeting the right person, or any of the countless other issues people impose on the very natural act of mating. It establishes a clear gendered power structure via subtle manipulations, it promotes deception and objectification, and it pretends any two people can successfully play out the same prescribed interaction. The show is no more based in reality than Mystery's costumes are based in real style, and the men following him are as duped as the women they target.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Am I the only person who has trouble thinking of the Olsen twins as prolific? It's hard for me to see Mary Kate and Ashley as anything but troll-ish little brats.

I suppose I should applaud them for apparently escaping the child-star curse -- an eating disorder and a line of tiny overpriced copies of vintage clothes are definitely more praiseworthy than shaving one's head and passing out in hotel hallways. In the grand scheme of celebrity offenses, they're actually pretty sane.

And since the girls have thoroughly infiltrated the fashion blogosphere, increasingly referenced as legitimate style icons, I suppose I'll have acknowledging them as adults eventually. And if funny-looking little Michelle Tanner can pull off a career in luxury ready-to-wear, maybe there's hope for me dressing reasonably well for normal, non-celebrity life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I could feel it in the way the wind carried mist off Drumheller Fountain to my skin before it could evaporate in the weakening sunlight; could smell it in the September-red leaves:

Today was a day for an Autumn coat.

Not a track jacket or cardigan or my new gold scarf. Autumn hung heavy in the air like the full red berries along the Burke Gilman; boots are everywhere, on par with handbags as a fashion-minded female obsession; I replaced my Ginger gloss with a reddish Khiels' balm -- a changing of the guards purely for my own entertainment.

Lucky for me, I've been preparing for this day since the Brooks Brothers Factory Store spring sale. This weekend I'm visiting the outlet stores up north again. Although I'm hoping for boots, maybe I'll find something fantastic on out-of-season clearance -- somehow, though, I just can't imagine having a heart attack over a springy pastel sweater. Maybe it's residual back-to-school excitement, my November birthday, or an affinity for leaves and rain -- but nothing quite matches the dramatic/romantic/transformative charm of Autumn and its dress code.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

GImme more?

A little anger can be good motivation for a workout, so I'm glad I only watch real TV -- as it's broadcast, with commercials, reality shows and all -- at the gym. If I watched it at home, I don't know what I'd do with all the angry energy I get from TV news.

I'd be a big hypocrite to criticize coverage of celebrity fumbles, since I tuned in when I saw a clip of Britney's Video Music Awards "performance" on CNN this morning. I expected familiar speculation about her lack of preparation and all-around crappy showing -- so I was pretty shocked to see the headline "Is Britney fat?"

Fat never crossed my mind. I don't mean that I thought, "Oh, she's kind of chubby. No, wait, she's normal. I'm not judging. I respect women and will not be part of our culture's system of body fascism," as I might think about someone like America Ferrera -- pretty and talented, but being rounder than most stars is a lot of her appeal, and it catches me off guard. No, in light of Brit's awful performance and her recent exploits in general, it never occurred to me to think of her size.

Udoubteldly, the spangled bikini was a bad idea. Even Vegas does not necessitate such trash from a mother of two. She should aim for a comeback that does not involve reverting to an old image.

But Britney's image nor the sexist objectification of the recorded segment were not what really appalled me. When we returned to the newsroom, the anchors bantered about this very important national issue. Then the (apparently Emmy-winning) anchor Tony Harris said, "Get that butt cheese off TV."

Excuse me? The entire newsroom seemed taken aback. Britney may have some serious issues with professional judgment, but she's not pretending to be part of "The most respected name in News." Who says things like that even in private company? I feel tacky just typing the quote.

Fortunately I switched quickly to The Today Show, where the very respectable anchors spoke intelligently with Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama, and TV redeemed itself in my too-forgiving eyes.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Story time

I finished Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows last weekend, and haven't really recovered. Beyond the basic disappointment of the end of the entertainment, I'm forced into this reoccurring realization my new best friend is actually a figment of the combined imagination of the author and myself. Is my mind unusually swayed to have these characters in my dreams, to find I pick up their dialect or thought patterns? Should I fault the enveloping nature of the fiction, or my own gullibility (and the fact that I read all seven in eight weeks), for making me wonder if people at work are secretly working for the Dark Lord?

Regardless of cause, I get quite smitten with some characters, and closing the book seems to flatten them into shocking nonexistence. Suddenly, they're nothing more than a body of words. I feel adolescent foolish all over again to have become emotionally involved with someone who can't possibly adore me back. It's embarrassing.

Usually it's a Jane Eyre or Anne Elliot, some moderately attractive but witty underdog heroine who leaves me to be married to the most fabulous man in England. Maybe I've read too few books with male leads, or maybe I just didn't relate to them. After Holden Caufield, I read Nine Stories and anything else I could find by JD Salinger; but Harry Potter seems even more gone for the fact that I've got nothing else written by JK Rowling.

I'm working through Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot, hoping to be inspired toward the appreciation of US history I didn't grasp in Advanced Placement. Maybe it's too droll or too nerdy, but my ability to follow the essays merrily is dampened by irritation that Vowell is far too entranced by politics and history. It's like reading inside jokes among high school social studies teachers, jokes I just don't get. The Salem witch trials? Interesting. Not really entertaining in the novel way I've become used to.

In a similar historical-significance vein, I'm halfway through (Kelsey's) Dave Egger's What Is The What, an enhanced biography of a Sudanese "Lost Boy" refugee. I've guiltily avoided picking it up again, because it's a slow trudge through tragedy upon tragedy, though villages, deserts, violence, and US bureaucracy. Again, interesting, but ...

Brian says I should read another Octavia Butler, or maybe I'll go for a Nabokov, or 100 Years of Solitude, or reread the Vonnegut I thought I got in high school.

Or I might give up literature entirely and focus on this month's 840-page Vogue. Certainly not the same as a great character-driven novel, but at least the main players -- fall boots, shiny hair, semi-intellectual fashion commentary -- won't be gone when I close the cover.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Money buys happiness

I just bought every little baker's dream from Amazon. It may take a month to ship, but I've never seen a Kitchenaid standing mixer for less than $100 before ($99 price listed in "Other Buying Options" bar at right). Thanks to Brian for the afternoon pick-me-up!

I also ordered pet clippers from Amazon yesterday. Buster's excited.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Cutting corners and keeping Buster presentable

I cut my own hair for most of high school, and a bit of college I think, but I gave up around the time I stopped being to indie and discovered Aveda. I now see Dan at Phase 3, the holding space for stylists graduated from the Gary Manuel Training Salon but not yet moved to Seattle's most fabulous Gary Manuel Salon.

Our shih tzu's not so lucky. Although Brian's mom has trimmed him a couple times, we don't see her enough to keep his quick-growing fluffy coat trimmed by her for free, nor do I want to impose on her generosity. I also don't want to pay for, or trust, professional grooming. They may not all lop off ears, but the many shih tzu grooming articles I've read imply that groomers can often be insensitive to squirmy dogs (Buster hates bathing and trimming) and not particularly respectful of owners' requests for styling.

So I groom Buster at home. At least I snip off bits of fur, and hope he looks "groomed" and not mutilated.

Usually it's just a bit off around the nose and pads of the feet, those inexplicably fluffy areas that prove these dogs are not meant to survive in the wild -- they'd turn into stinky balls of matted fur, blinded by overgrown facial fluff, within weeks.

Generally my attempts to chop of bits of fur while he wiggles around the bathroom turn out surprisingly passable -- a little ragged around the edges, but nothing that won't be overgrown within weeks. Yesterday I took off quite a bit around the face and legs, and successfully evened out the bottoms of his ears. But left a few stray long patches that I still need to even out, and my attempt to leave his coat longer and "natural" over the body makes him just look like a fatso with skinny legs and a big round head. (Below, a before and two afters.)

I'm just glad Buster (much like myself in high school) is apparently oblivious to the silly, sloppy obviousness of an amature cut.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A whole different kind of Women's Studies

I support informed homemaking 100%.

With proper instruction, my muffins could be light and fluffy instead of little banana-bran bricks. A single quarter of middle-school Home Ec, combined with leaving my parent's house halfway through high school, failed to provide all the skills necessary to live efficiently -- with or without a husband and herd of children. I don't think I'm alone in fumbling through what were once standard women's skills, hemming pants, baking bread, remembering to dust. While I'm happy to live in luxury to the extent that I can pay someone else to do some of these things, I enjoy baking and ironing, et cetera. I think it's important to be self-sufficient, and I don't feel at all degrading baking a pie. There's no reason feminism and domestic chores can't co-exist peacefully. I thought it was settled for me.

Then I saw this headline and furiously switched headphones from iPod to CNN yesterday morning at the gym:

Southern Baptist Seminary to offer Academic Program in Homemaking

A fairly standard liberal arts education, with a more unusual track (23 hours) devoted to homemaking. Specifically, the making of a happy traditional christian home with subservient mom, babies, and bread-winning husband. My belief in a woman's right to choose extends to her occupation, so I was initially ambivalent.

If a nice woman find a nice man, and is inclined and financially able to spend her days at home, why shouldn't she be prepared?

Then I asked a question I often ask: What would Martha think?

Would Martha Stewart, my surrogate home ec tutor, support this? No. I think not. Martha may have built her empire on pie crust and pressed shirts, but it is the empire that makes her significant, not the pie. She is a business woman first, with a DIY bent. And while she comes off a bit conservative, she most definitely does not seem like a subservient homemaker. (She went to prison, for pete's sake!)

A little research later revealed details that turned me pretty firmly against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's program.

1: The only woman instructor at the seminary is the president's wife, and the seminary does not seem to support women in the clergy.

2: The program is available strictly to women, in deference to traditional ("biblical") gender roles. While it may be vaguely biblical, I imagine most writers of that text intended women to learn these skills in the confines of her parent's house, not as part of a college degree. I also take issue with justifying anything as a biblical example, since the bible also recommends we stone women who are raped and drive them from the village.

3: Frankly, the curriculum seems insufficient. I couldn't clarify from the seminary's surprisingly beautiful web site (although I did notice the unusual Hispanic Studies program), but I'm guessing 23 hours equals 23 credits (meaning 34.5 quarter credits if they use semesters). Basically, the equivalent of a minor. Minors are pursued on the side of your real degree, generally for the sake of some personal interest. Minors add to your resume, help you start conservations -- they do not form the foundation for a successful life.

While sewing and budgeting classes are valuable, I can not believe that a scholastic track successfully replaces the years of instruction girls used to (and many still) receive from their female family members. I also do not believe this successfully replaces other degrees women could earn, in which they'd gain academic or professional knowledge to help them succeed in life -- beyond the home.

If the program claims to prepare women for motherhood, etc, it should provide more than 3 hours on "the value of the child." There's a lot more to know than can be taught in these classrooms. The purpose of this program is not to further women's education but to establish a women's place as in the home.

Do women have the right to choose homemaking over other opportunities? Certainly. But I would rather see women use the educational rights for which older generations fought to pursue something more lofty than cooking and cleaning tips that could be picked up via Tivo.

Martha airs at 10 am on KING 5.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

... but please don't ask me that.

There are many good reasons to walk around public places with a large Azure sign reading "ASK ME." I do it because it's what the Seattle Art Museum asks me to do when I volunteer. And I imagine that beyond simply advertising my purpose in the galleries, the sign lends me a certain air of ridiculousness that makes people more comfortable approaching me.

Unfortunately, along with restroom and Botticelli requests, I've recently received a number of more personal requests. I don't mean the nerdy older men who embarrass their teenage sons by asking me to marry them. No, I mean the younger men with more interest in eyeing women than the Andy Warhol.

I brushed it off when one followed me to the coat check two weeks ago, but this week my attempt to escape a more leering man into the minimalism room failed, and he followed up a compliment to my my sandals with the very cultured. "I like the way you look, very sexy, that's my friend from LA there, why don't you come with us and tell us about the city?" Here I am, completely appalled, spending as much time in the more secluded galleries as possible.

Later, I spent 45 minutes wandering the third floor avoiding another man, who's very basic questions about art made me think he thoroughly lacked any mind for creativity, or he was aiming for a date, or both; either way, I had no interest in repeated conversation with him. I clung to a few security guards as much as possible, listening very attentively to histories of their relationships, details accounts of their moves across the country, and review of every movie they've seen in the last 6 months.

If you're looking for a date, or just some art, feel free to join me at SAM. You can find me behind a big blue sign, wearing my frumpiest outfit -- maybe I can find a big sweater with a cat on it -- and making eye contact with only elderly ladies.

Lacks Persuasion

If I wanted to watch the Pride & Prejudice, I could've stayed home and done so. And maybe I should have.

Friday I was reminded of another Jane Austen theater experience not so long ago. A decent little movie moves along romantically, and I'm almost engaged in the plot when he come slowly across the undulating, green English landscape, coattails flapping in the mist. The fog clears, our hearts beat, and then -- oh, no, no. You're not Mr Darcy. And why is Kiera Knightly here? Where are the real actors?

No, Kiera -- though lovely -- is not Elizabeth Bennett, and no one but Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy. Most dissapointingly, Anne Hathaway is not Jane Austen, and Becoming Jane is not convinvingly about the beloved novelist.

If Becoming Jane was about another of the many British women named Jane, I wouldn't have missed the sharp wit, the social commentary and hint of feminism, the irony and exceptional romance. The film had a few really great moments, and for the most part the acting is convincing, if not inspiring. James McAvoy is absolutely adorable in every way -- fans of the actor would be a better audience than fans of Austen.

But because I went in with certain literary expectations, I left underwhelmed by the tertiary references to Austen's struggle as a novelist, as a female writer, and as a female who wanted to do anything but marry up. Austen's novels are brilliant, quick, dramatic, engaging, relatable -- many flattering adjectives unapplicable to the film. It alluded to her work, but I may have imagined the many poignant connections of her work and life -- the film seemed more concerned with close-ups than statements. And while I inderstand the period covered is when Austen began Pride & Prejudice, undoubtedly her most famous work, it could have drawn from her other works as well.

The plot felt disheveled, clunky. The developments didn't come in a fast-paced theatrical way, but through a very shallow, monotone arch. I was never caught up in a conflict long enough to feel anything before it was swept away. It was a vaguely realistic representation of a woman's ongoing indecision, not more bland than engaging in its familiarity. I can experience bland indecision at home. At the movies, I want drama.

The expereicne was also tained by an obnoxious audience. I blame the lackluster film for eliciting forced sighs, oohs, and oh-no!'s from the women around me. To the woman behind me: vocalizing your own emotions doesn't strengthen a film that lacks its own.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cheap and chic

Possibly the most thrilling personal shopping event since I got my driver's license, and one of the biggest Seattle shopping newsflashes I can think of:

H&M to be accessible to Raven on lunch breaks

Thanks to Kelsey for keeping me and other deprived devotees up-do-date.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

French cooking class deux

Bouillabaisse was great but I'm not ready for another pot of seafood, pasta aux herbs was wonderful, very fresh and light with great texture.

But the real winner was the pine nut tart. If I can squeeze in a trip to a cooking this weekend, for a tart pan and orange flower water, the tart will be mine. Expect post-baking updates.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

French weekend, parts 1 and 2

Part 1: the mussels

We bought the mussels at Costco. The blue mesh bag didn't look so big nestled in our cart with giant jars of artichoke hearts, a flat of coke, and half a garden of spinach. Not until it was time to cook did I realize my regular big pot wasn't big enough -- I needed the extra large pot from the top of the pantry, normally reserved for ... well, I can't remember actually using it before.

The other issue: I knew from my Provence class that Mussels are alive until they're cooked, that's why they're fresh, that's how they open up when cooked, and why you have to rinse them well and rip off their "beards." But I didn't actually participate in the debearding in class, and didn't grasp that alive meant actually living -- closing and opening in the fridge, and closing again when I took them out, making little squeaking and gasping noises. I dropped the bag in the sink, drew away in fear, approached it hesitantly, heard noises, ran away again, called Brian for help, Brian took pictures or my terrified attempts to tackle the little monsters, and eventually he took over while I went for the bottle of wine for cooking.

Eventually, many, many debearded mussels later, after sauteing and simmering, et cetera, Brian and I had 5 pounds of mussles between us, plus most of the Costco-size bottle of chardonnay left over. I definitely will invite friends next time.

Part 2: la Vie en Rose

Edith Piaf came to me via iTunes -- a cursory discovery, but the drama and emotion of her music was riveting despite my nonexistent knowledge of French.

I remembered a sophomore-year class on east German culture post- 1989, in which we discussed the attraction of music in languages we didn't understand. Beyond basic orientalism, we wore foreign lyrics like chameleon skin, interpreted them like all-purpose code for our own ideas. Edith Piaf, to me, was an articulate cacophony of feminism and revolution, history and culture, ruined romance. The trials of my own little affairs and college stresses magnified, via headphones on bus rides through the rain, to some operatic life where I got to wear fancier dresses and red lipstick.

The film was very different from my vicarious interest in Piaf. Her life spilled over two and a half hours, tragedy after tragedy, a hyperbole of hardship. It's an unbelievable story, and the film shows many events very quickly, sans chronology.

Although Marion Cotillard carries the film with a great performance, I don't feel particularly close to the Piaf. She comes across as both excessively emotional (good for her music) and selfishly heartless (bad for her friends). And despite her unparalleled success, she's also completely self-destructive. It's not the fame that's unbelievable -- we see an excess of celebrity every day -- but her fame, in the context of a personality and a life that should have made even minor success impossible.

Fortunately, I did not make the connection to our contemporary addict-celebrities until after the film. The thought of Lindsey Lohan stumbling toward rehab is not nearly as romantic as Piaf collapsing mid-gala.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Beyond Ratatouille

Tuesday night I dined in Provence via U-Village, at the first of two French cooking classes I'm taking through the Experimental College. I and 12ish other 20-somethings (give or take a couple years) chopped and sauteed alongside a center-of-attention instructor, pouring tiny glasses of wine from giant bottles, scribbling notes and dribbling sauces over our photocopied recipes.

The menu:

Salad a la Maroc
(Moroccan Salad with lentils, cous cous, herbs, vegetables)

Gratin aux Courgettes
(baked zucchini and tomato with onions and parmesan)
Mouclade aux Moules
(Mussles with curried cream and fennel)

Sorbet a la Framboise
(Raspberry Sorbet)

I think more than anything French cuisine seemed daunting in its subtlety. Not like spicey Mexican or garlicy Italian, where flavor excess is intentional. Butter and cream should be easy, but a pinch to much or too little pepper and the whole flavor's askew. I imagine this is expecially true with the seafood-oriented Provence, where heavy cream sauces are not entirely ubiquiteous.

Another surprising element, and an intentional motif for the class, was the diversity of foreign influences: Moroccan salad, Italian-esque gratin, muscles with Indian curry. Next week, with a bouillabaisse and souffle, may be more French standard.

This weekend, I plan to try the mussels for Brian, so I can take any questions to class next week. With La Vie en Rose at the Guild 45th, it could be a very French weekend.

Living in the future

It's August and 80˚ but I'm feeling a bit Autumnal. Could we get a few grey rainy days please? I'd like to wear boots.

Last weekend, the Nordstrom Rack basement hosted a war between me and an olive green Marc Jacobs coat. Heavy cotton, lots of big buttons, deep pockets for storing iPod, phone, candy canes while christmas tree shopping -- it was a decidedly cold-weather coat. Unfortunately my pockets were not so deep, and the battle was decided when a slim emerald green wool coat joined the fray , armed with a much lighter pricetag.

If I told you this was my second long, solid-color wool coat to purchase this summer, would you hold it against me? But the other's kind of a slouchy-drapey cranberry piece from Brooks Brothers. Not at all the same. I went home and wore them around the air-conditioned house with sandals.

Friday, July 27, 2007

In vain, out of vanity

I used to write all the time. Almost constantly.

On the bus, in the car, in class, in the 95 seconds my high school boyfriend left me alone to use the bathroom. Any second struck by adolescent melodrama, with a pen and the torn-off edge of an envelope, I'd meter out emotions and ideas, somehow writing more clearly than I could think.

When the Internet was discovered by my mother in 1998, I loved AOL for giving me blank white web page to turn pink and black and litter with high school poetry. It got my my first boyfriend. We'd pass back and forth sheets of disordered rhyme, glorifying each other with our metaphor es and our appreciation.

Eventually the poetry subsided, and in college my journals went live. Like the thrill of my first published newspaper article (on the Mariner High School Track team), my words in print online were a vivid validation -- an acknowledgement of my existence, a sort of publicity even if no one was reading. I mentally competed for comments with friends who also posted their lives online, and when a post earned multiple responses I aimed for more like it.

Online, I didn't write the way I had in high school, everything a convoluted allegory for my distressed existence as smallish and nervous and not particularly charming. I wrote more directly, more candidly. Instead of hiding behind poems about sunsets and Hamlet, I told my vast audience that I'd locked myself out while house-sitting (with the dogs),
had been cut in front of in line at Starbucks, had met with my therapist. I wrote 900 words on my severe boredom (the boredom post earned me 9 comments). I knew who was reading, and I knew it wasn't many. But to give up these stories as public artifacts of my actual life -- not some hyperbole of emotion I'd contrived, but the real happenings beyond my own head -- was liberating. I was naked, streaking across the Internet bearing it all, somewhere between wonderful and terrible.

Toward the end of college I wrote a fashion column for The Daily at the UW. I thought it would be a piece of delicious designer-handbag cake, but the self-indulgence of it overwhelmed me and the writing shut down completely upon graduation.

Now I'm gainfully employed and have too much time to read other peoples' blogs about beauty products and handbags and the Seattle social life. I was hesitant to rejoin the blogosphere, especially after perusing the egocentric, over-written articles I've left posted. At worse, my little texts will be just as vain and embarrassingly self-indulgent as they were before. At best, they'll be lovely and read by no one, all this creativity in vain. Likely, they'll fall somewhere in the middle, a digital record of adventures in baking, shopping, dog-owning,
art-viewing, haircuts and lipgloss and work life and long-term relationships, something to leave online for my future cringing entertainment.